Stephanie, outbound to Thailand

I cannot believe I have lived in Thailand for seven months. I still remember the feeling of when I first arrived and saw my host family in the airport, when everything was completely new to me. The feeling of being somewhere new, completely alone, is insane. Sometimes, it’s so uncomfortable to the point where you just want to get on a plane and go home. But the great thing about exchange is that you can’t.

You are in your country for one year, with barely any contact to your family and friends back home. That’s not a bad thing though, and honestly, the less you talk to your friends and family back home, the easier it is to make new friends and learn the new language. It’s amazing to make the friendships that you make on exchange because you never know how long you will be able to see the people you meet. Some days I meet entire crowds of people and take literally hundreds of photos, and I know I will most likely never s ee those people again. I also lived with an exchange student from Indonesia for one week, and she was one of the best friends I made here, even though our time together was really short. Exchange really makes you appreciate every friendship and acquaintance that you make.

The thing about being an exchange student in Thailand, or any part of Asia really, is that you will never really feel like you are “Thai.” That is really hard for me. I know that no one will ever mistake me for a Thai person, I have blonde hair and blue eyes, not to mention my skin is pastier than white rice. I have a really good host family, and most days I really feel like I am really my host mom’s daughter. She always tells people that I am; she says “The foreigner really is my daughter, it is my fault because I have two husbands.” (hahaha I love her) There are quite a few people here that think I really am Thai even though I don’t look Asian at all.

There a lot more days where everyone just stares at me like I am an alien and calls me “farong” (foreigner). Sometimes, even my teachers at school are scared to talk to me because they think I can’t speak Thai. As soon as I try to speak to them in Thai they relax a lot and get really excited because they know they can talk with me (which is really adorable until they start speaking rapid Thai and I don’t understand anything).

My most memorable time in Thailand was in November, when I went to live in a temple for one week. My councilor organized a trip for me and a few other exchange students to go study Buddhism and meditation in a temple in the north of Thailand. The temple itself was absolutely amazing, it was in the mountains and we could see some little villages from the top. During that week, we walked barefoot for a few miles every morning at 5 am with our teacher, and only ate two meals a day; one in the morning and one at noon. We spent the day meditating, doing yoga, and learning about Buddhism from 24 year old monk who used to live in Australia. This experience taught me to really appreciate every moment and to not worry too much about anything, especially about the things that I cannot control.

I am really enjoying my time in Thailand more than I could have ever imagined. Thailand was not my first choice, but now I cannot picture doing my exchange anywhere else. Thai people are always extremely kind and helpful, and my family always helps me with everything that I need. My RYE friends always have my back and support me through everything. Thai food is indescribably amazing. I am even starting to enjoy the 100° weather every day. The only bad thing is that in a little less than 4 months, I have to leave this amazing country. I just want to say thank you to Rotary for making this possible. :D